“I do myself.”
Those three little words bring satisfaction and sadness all at once.
As I watch my toddler son dominate everything from putting on his shark sandals in the morning or his pajamas at night, these words have become his calling card.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore watching as he masters these skills. I clap and congratulate and photograph. But part of me deep down in the depths of my belly feels regret. Disappointment another milestone has arrived and knocked me down the ladder as total caregiver.
Every parent goes through the wishing phase. Wishing they could hold their own bottle. Wishing they didn’t need that third cup of water before bed. Wishing they were just a little more this or old enough to do that. I’ve spent more time in the wishing phase with my children than I’d like to admit.
I remember when he was first born. I longed for the days I could leave him on his own to play. To wash a dish or take a shower. The day where he didn’t require my undivided attention. His needs were all encompassing. The necessity felt heavy.
Then one day, I was making airplane noises, a single pea hidden inside a cylinder pasta noodle, and just like that, he takes the fork, “I do myself.”
I applauded his independence, free to savor my first meal in what felt like forever. Then came potty training. Another, much-welcomed life skill grasped. He never had an accident at night, not once. After purchasing 10 lottery tickets because, really, who can be this lucky, the Pull-Ups were given away.
I found a diaper months later while cleaning out my car and burst into tears. My baby was gone in the blink of an eye.
With lightning speed, my presence was no longer required for squeezing ketchup on hamburgers or syrup on morning pancakes. I was reprimanded for picking out his superhero undies and buckling his car seat. I was witnessing a self-reliant, headstrong boy emerge where the baby I coddled used to be.
Last week, we set out for the bathroom to complete his pooping ritual. A hysterical routine where he grips my forearms for dear life while staring directly into my eyes, making a face only a mother could love.
I sat him on his potty seat and he looked at me, “I do myself, Mommy. You go now.”
I was officially stripped of my Executive Assistant of Pooping position. And while the role of Chief Wiper may still be mine, it’s only a matter of time before I’m not allowed in the bathroom at all.
Because he is my last, the desire to hold onto these moments pulls at my insides.
I will take more time to appreciate every shampoo mohawk and skinned knee.
I will read one more book before bed.
I will plant a million kisses on chubby cheeks and sticky fingers.
Once these moments are gone, they are gone. You can’t get them back. You can look back on pictures with fondness, but you can’t get back the smell of a newborn head or the sound his pacifier makes as he’s drifting off to sleep.
And though parenting can feel like there are 40 hours in a day at times, I am going to make an effort to be present in these moments, before the next “I do myself” comes tumbling out.More On